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CNN Today

Election 2000: Democrats' Night at the Apollo

Aired February 21, 2000 - 1:05 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: What a difference a weekend makes in the race for the U.S. presidency. George W. Bush is, once again , the unquestioned front-runner, and John McCain is, once again, playing catch-up. And if you haven't heard much from the Democrats lately, that's about to change, too. Bill Bradley and Al Gore have a debate tonight in Harlem, and CNN's Maria Hinojosa joins us now with a preview of that -- Maria.

MARIA HINOJOSA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Natalie, the debate is going to take place here at the Apollo Theater, which has been a historical landmark here in Harlem for over 70 years. And this is going to be the first presidential debate in recent memory that is going to deal with primarily urban issues, and really given towards a primarily African-American audience. So it's only fitting that this debate should take place here in Harlem.

Now, about an half and a half ago, Vice President Gore made his way through Harlem, made his way through 125th Street, shaking hands with store owners or vendors and possible voters, although he never did ask is any of these people were registered to vote or whether or not they were American citizens.

But the people I have spoken to have said that they will support Gore because of the fact he does have these ties in Harlem. He is tied to Charles Rangel, the senior congressman, and that that's one of the reasons why they will go out and vote for him.

Now, Harlem, interestingly enough, is a changing community. There are areas of urban blight, but this is also a community that is being infused with a tremendous amount of economic development, millions of dollars are being poured in because it's an economic development zone. What that also means is that, who the electorate is here in Harlem is also changing, you have African-Americans, but you also have Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Asians, African immigrants, who are all now living in Harlem. And they will be determining what they want to hear from these candidates tonight.

Now, behind me, both the Gore and Bradley supporters have made their little camps in front of the Apollo Theater. Interestingly enough, they each have less than a handful of African-Americans in each of their chanting groups. So that's an interesting point.

One of the persons said, well, that just points to lack of -- to the tremendous amount of apathy there is amongst black voters. One woman who does live in Harlem said to me: I'm glad that at least the debate is happening here because it is going to help with the deghettoization of Harlem -- Natalie.

ALLEN: All right, Maria Hinojosa, thank you.

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